Nottingham Forest 0
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 32,217
IF YOU cannot win when facing 10 men for the final third of a match you probably do not deserve to stay in the top flight, and Horacio Carbonari's goal five minutes from the end of this dire East Midlands derby surely means that Forest's season ticket to the Premiership has now expired.
The dismissal of Derby's goalkeeper, Russell Hoult, for bringing down the Forest full-back, Alan Rogers, when he was clear on goal seemed to have tossed the bottom club the lifeline they so desperately needed, but the drowning men were too weak to grasp it.
Instead, they threw their numerical advantage away when their captain, Richard Gough, was himself sent off for a second bookable offence 12 minutes from time, and then handed them the match. They backed away from Carbonari as he drifted across the edge of the penalty area and allowed the Argentine defender to plant a 20-yard shot beyond Mark Crossley.
And Ron Atkinson's gloom deepened when it became clear that his Dutch striker Pierre van Hooijdonk would end the season as he had begun it, amid controversy.
Television replays showed that, in a 15th-minute collision, Van Hooijdonk's elbow made contact with Vass Borbokis's face. The Derby defender was carried off and taken to hospital with a broken cheekbone. He will not play again this season.
"It didn't look too clever on TV," the Forest manager said. "But intent is a difficult thing to judge. The referee was perfectly placed to see what happened and he took no action."
Derby's manager, Jim Smith, said: "I thought it was the momentum of our player as much as the elbow. Vass went in strongly to head the ball and it was that rather than the challenge that caused the injury."
Atkinson's decision to take Van Hooijdonk off with 15 minutes left had no connection with the incident, he said. "We weren't getting enough shots on goal."
He could have said the same of their opponents. With Derby's hopes of qualifying for Europe virtually extinct now that it is clear that one of the Uefa Cup qualifiers must come from the FA Cup, both sides played as though the season could not end soon enough.
Derby might have clinched it sooner if Crossley had not made two fine one-handed saves from the substitute Dean Sturridge.
Forest managed a little flurry at the end of the first half when Deon Burton had a header that went high and wide, Darryl Powell charged down a shot from Dougie Freedman and Carbonari kicked a goal-bound Marlon Harewood shot off the line. But that proved to be Forest's final fling in this match and, as they are 10 points adrift of safety with just five games remaining, their last waltz in the Premiership cannot be far away.Reuse content